Wednesday, January 31, 2018

C.V. Wyk

C. V. Wyk was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She has lived in five states in the continental US (and hopes to add a few international locales to that list). Prone to wanderlust and getting lost, Wyk likes to explore local hiking trails, mountain ranges, dark caves where nefarious mythical creatures undoubtedly reside, and libraries. She currently lives in Maryland with a precocious mini poodle and a demanding guinea pig.

Wyk's new book is Blood and Sand.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Wyk's reply:
I am actually re-reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It’s an historical fantasy retelling of the legend of Achilles leading up to and during the Trojan War as told from the perspective of his beloved companion, Patroclus. Miller does an incredible job of portraying the god-like Achilles as a very human, very fallible young man. Her writing is lyrical and resonant, and this was a surprisingly character-driven story. There is certainly action and wonderfully described battle scenes, of course. But the heart of this song centers around Achilles and Patroclus and how their relationship deeply affected both of their paths. It’s a heart-rending, profoundly moving novel, and I thought about it for weeks after I finished it. Hence why I’m reading it again!
Visit C. V. Wyk's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Jane Corry

Jane Corry is a writer and journalist and has spent time as the writer in residence of a high-security prison for men–an experience that helped inspire My Husband’s Wife, her suspense debut.

Corry's latest novel is Blood Sisters.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Corry's reply:
Last night, I finished reading a proof copy of BA Paris’ new novel Bring me Back. It’s written in the first person from the point of view of a man who left his girlfriend in the car at a motorway station and then returned to find she had gone. I don’t want to give away the twists but the hero has a past which might - or might not - have contributed to her disappearance. I was particularly keen to read the book because I met the author last year. I help to organise a literary festival in my seaside town and BA Paris was one of our speakers. The novel made me think about how well we think we know others - and how well we know ourselves. It also made me go back to see how the author planted seeds throughout the book in order to achieve the final twist.
Follow Jane Corry on Twitter and Facebook.

My Book, The Movie: My Husband's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: My Husband's Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 29, 2018

C.M. Wendelboe

C. M. Wendelboe is the author of the Spirit Road Mysteries (Penguin). During his thirty-eight-year career in law enforcement, he served successful stints as a sheriff’s deputy, police chief, policy adviser, and supervisor for several agencies. He was a patrol supervisor when he retired to pursue his true vocation as a fiction writer.

Wendelboe's latest contemporary mystery is Hunting the Five Point Killer.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Whenever I get hung up on characterization, I often go back to school. My instructors that I fall back on are Craig Johnson and Charles Dickens. A contemporary writer, Johnson’s characters are vivid, and they literally come alive for readers. In his latest book, The Western Star, Johnson’s main character, Walt Longmire, steps out of element when he rides a train, and in so doing, winds up right in the middle of a murder. Longmire’s strong role adds much depth to the story.

And Dickens. As difficult as some of Dickens’ books were to read, he was a master (in my opinion) of strong characterization. As I’m re-reading Great Expectations for the umpteenth time, it teaches me how to flesh out secondary characters. No one reading that classic can forget Joe Gargery, Pip’s brother-in-law, who is more like a father to Joe. Dickens wove Joe’s empathy and unwavering devotion to Pip throughout the book. Strong character!

And Louis L’Amour. Normally one thinks about L’Amour as a writer of traditional westerns. But he had written a number of seafaring and adventure books. And a Sci-Fi novel. I am reading (for the second time in as many months) The Haunted Mesa—not because I forgot how the story evolved—but because I cannot put my literary thumb on just why it is such a fascinating read. I’ll try to dissect the book several times this year, but am not optimistic that I’ll decipher its draw on me any more than the first time I read it thirty years ago.
Visit C. M. Wendelboe's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hunting the Five Point Killer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Tyrell Johnson

Tyrell Johnson is a writer and editor. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California Riverside where he studied fiction and poetry. He's passionate about the outdoors and can often be found on the mountain with his Siberian Husky, or on his mother-in-law's ranch feeding her horses and a donkey named Jim. Originally from Bellingham, Washington, Johnson now lives in Kelowna, BC, with his family.

The Wolves of Winter is his debut novel.

Recently I asked Johnson about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m lucky enough to have a publisher who doesn’t mind sending me a book or two before the official release. So right now, I’m reading The Philosopher’s Flight, which Simon and Schuster will publish in February 2018. When I read the description, it reminded me of one of my favorite novels, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel—a bit of magic, a bit of history, and told with a literary flare. So I requested it right away. It’s the story of a young man named Robert Weekes and his journey learning and using a type of science called empirical philosophy—which we’d simply call magic. I’ve just started it, but it seems fantastically interesting.

I’m also listening to The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about it. I first encountered the novel when my own novel The Wolves of Winter was picked as an Indie Next Selection for January. I saw The Immortalists on the same list and since then, I’ve seen the novel pop up on almost every other list that Wolves is on. So I assumed it was fate and bought the audio version of the book right away. It’s the story of four siblings whose fortunes are told by an old lady in 1969 New York City. Having heard his or her prophecy, each sibling is strongly affected as the narrative travels from San Francisco, to Las Vegas, to the front lines of 9/11. So far, the novel strikes me as a mix of The Rules of Magic and The Lonely Hearts Hotel. Can’t go wrong there!

While I’m reading and listening to fiction, I usually try to keep sharp on my writing skills by reading a book on the craft of writing. Currently, I’m reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. It’s partly about her own journey into writing, partly a meditation on writing, and partly a guide to writing and living the writing life. The title originates from a story about her brother who, when they were children, was late in writing a report on birds. Their father’s advice was just to “take it bird by bird.” Anne Lamott compares this advice to her own writing theory. Thus far, the book is as insightful as it is humorous!
Visit Tyrell Johnson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 26, 2018

Molly MacRae

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

Her latest book is Scones and Scoundrels, book two in the Highland Bookshop series.

Recently I asked MacRae about what she was reading. Her reply:
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading an odd mix of books and enjoying them all. Because I work in the children’s department of a busy public library, three of them are children’s books.

The first is a picture book - Roger is Going Fishing, written and illustrated by Koen Van Biesen. Think of it as laying the groundwork so preschool children grow up to properly crave caper novels by writers like Donald Westlake and Timothy Hallinan. This is a story of unintended consequences with a full complement of onomatopoetic sounds. It’s about Roger, his young friend Emily, and their bicycle trip to the lake for a day of fishing. What could possibly go wrong as Roger peddles along the busy city sidewalks with Emily sitting in the seat behind him holding the fishing pole? Oops.

Over my lunch hours I’ve been reading Artie Conan Doyle and the Grave Diggers’ Club, by Robert J. Harris. It’s the first in a new series about a twelve-year-old Arthur Conan Doyle honing the detective skills he later gave to Sherlock Holmes. It’s a good book for the 4th, 5th, 6th grade set who have some familiarity with the Holmes stories. I’m enjoying it partly because it takes place in Edinburgh and gives me a chance to revisit the city. It turns out I lived not far from where Conan Doyle grew up.

For a change of pace, I’m making my way through Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook, part of The Complete Middle School Study Guide series, billed as “notes borrowed from the smartest kid in class (double-checked by an award-winning teacher)”. It’s an attractive book that invites you to pick it up and do equations. Because I haven’t taken a math class since 1971, I figured how could it hurt to brush up on stuff like exponents, coordinate planes, surface areas, and the distributive principle of multiplication over subtraction? Although I did find a mistake on page 110 (sorry award-winning teacher, but the answer to 10 is 8,324.64, not 8,325.64). It also made me narrow my eyes and proceed with caution right at the beginning when, in the middle of page 2, it emphatically said whole numbers “cannot be negative,” and then immediately started talking about negative whole numbers at the top of page 3. Hmm. Otherwise, the book is a pretty good review, might help middle school students, and is a good bit of fun for workbook nerds. My sons gave me the whole set of study guides for Christmas, so in several months I should be a whiz at middle school science, English, and American and world history, in addition to the math. Cool.

My reading isn’t all kid stuff. A niece and nephew gave me a copy of Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark, and told me it’s their new favorite cookbook. Now it’s my favorite, too. The book, itself, is beautiful and well made. The binding is sturdy and the pages lie flat when you open it and set it down on a table. The pictures are drool-worthy. Dinner, according to the inside front cover, “showcases the inventive yet unfussy approach to cooking that will make anyone a better and more confident cook.” So far I’ve made the Olive Oil-braised Chickpeas with Swiss Chard and Cumin and the Roasted Carrots with Walnuts, Feta, and Dill. Both are a total wow. I’m looking forward to the Scalloped Potato Skillet Gratin with Gruyere, Leeks, and Black Pepper, and the Butternut Squash Polenta with Ricotta and Fried Sage. Ooh.

My bedtime reading is a re-reading of Mastering Suspense, Strutcture, & Plot, by Jane K. Cleland. In my own writing, I tend to set a leisurely pace. That’s okay in cozy mysteries—up to a point. But I’m looking for help to avoid slowing things down so much that my stories end up a deadly slog. Cleland writes an award-winning cozy series, herself. Even better, she knows how to analyze her books and other bestsellers, figure out what makes them work, and then give a clear explanation. Help is out there, and Mastering Suspense is a good book to keep on hand.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

The Page 69 Test: Scones and Scoundrels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Laurie Gwen Shapiro

Laurie Gwen Shapiro has most recently written articles for publications including The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Slate, Aeon, Los Angeles Review of Books, and has her own history column focusing on unsung heroes for The Forward. Shapiro is also a documentary filmmaker who won an Independent Spirit Award for directing IFC’s Keep the River On Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale and an Emmy nomination for producing HBO’s Finishing Heaven.

Shapiro's new book is The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I love to read books that are true heavily-researched stories that unfold like novels. My two favorite books I read recently was Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, and Douglas Preston’s Lost City of the Monkey God.

Grann was the writer who most inspired me to write narrative non-fiction. He has a true knack for making the 1920’s come alive. I loved Grann’s Lost City of Z too. This latest offering from him was about the oil-rich Native Americans – members of the Osage tribe - who were getting murdered in the Roaring 20s.

Preston’s latest book resonated with me because in my other career as a documentary maker I filmed in the Amazon for a month directing Keep the River on Your Right (IFC 2001) with my brother. The Amazon is haunting and this true story that unfolds in the Honduras jungle just wows – searching for Ciudad Blanca (“The White City”), a legendary ruin hidden in the dense jungle of eastern Honduras. The city was also known as “the Lost City of the Monkey God” and everyone thought it was only a legend – I don’t want to say more – I hate spoilers.

Just read both if you haven’t. By the way, they were on my dream list of blurbers for The Stowaway. And when both blurbed I almost passed out.
Visit Laurie Gwen Shapiro's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Stowaway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Matt Hilton

Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers. He is the author of the high-octane Joe Hunter thriller series. Worst Fear, from the Tess Grey thriller series, is his latest novel to hit the US.

Recently I asked Hilton about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m best known as a writer of thrillers and mysteries, but there’s nothing more I like to read (and occasionally write) than a creepy horror or ghost story. Recently I was recommended to read Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel. Now, twice Man Booker Prize-winner Dame Mantel (author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies) would never have been my natural choice to reach for when thinking about a good horror story, but with Beyond Black I’ve been happily surprised. In fact, more than happy. Albeit the word ‘happy’ is probably a poor choice concerning the emotions the narrative stirred in me. The book concerns an obese psychic medium, Alison Heart, and her severe assistant/business partner Colette, and is as much a tale regarding their awkward relationship as it is a tale of the supernatural. It’s anything but a ‘happy’ book, and often I was left feeling uncomfortable, annoyed (on Alison’s behalf) and even a little dirty, but also amused and bemused. I was warned the book would leave me with mixed feelings, but isn’t that good? Mantel has done a terrific job of evoking a gamut of visceral and emotional responses through the narrative, and her masterful use of dialogue has left me green-eyed with envy. Beyond Black is not a horror book, except maybe it is. As contradictory as that sounds, one definition of good horror writing is where the story induces feelings that unsettle the reader, and having now just finished Beyond Black, I’m unsettled.
Visit Matt Hilton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Dara Horn

Dara Horn received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard University in 2006, studying Hebrew and Yiddish. In 2007 she was chosen by Granta magazine as one of 20 “Best Young American Novelists.” Her first novel, In the Image, received a 2003 National Jewish Book Award, the 2002 Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and the 2003 Reform Judaism Fiction Prize. Her second novel, The World to Come, received the 2006 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, the 2007 Harold U. Ribalow Prize, was selected as an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times Book Review and as one of the Best Books of 2006 by The San Francisco Chronicle, and has been translated into eleven languages. Her third novel, All Other Nights, was selected as an Editors’ Choice in The New York Times Book Review and was one of Booklist’s 25 Best Books of the Decade. In 2012, her nonfiction e-book The Rescuer was published by Tablet magazine and became a Kindle bestseller. Her fourth novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, was selected as one of Booklist’s Best Books of 2013 and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Horn's new novel is Eternal Life.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
When friends heard I was writing a novel about a woman who can’t die, they would often recommend books to me that had some connection to immortality. I refused to read any of them while I was writing; I was too nervous about losing confidence in my own work. Now that my book is finished and there’s nothing I can do to change it, I’ve gone back to those recommendations to see what other writers had in mind. My favorite of these was The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara.

It’s a book so strange, and so strangely accomplished, that I hesitate to recommend it to anyone but the most open-minded readers, because I have learned the hard way through my own novels that many readers cannot handle books where the protagonist is the villain. For casual readers who expect entertainment and uplift, an unlikeable narrator is off-putting; a reprehensible one is confounding enough to send them back to the person who recommended the book (or worse, to some online review forum), ranting about how revolting it is and how they will never again blah blah blah. The fact that you’re reading a book blog suggests that you’re above that sort of thing, so I’m just going to say this flat out: The People in the Trees is about immortality, and it’s about anthropology, and it’s about a child molester, and it’s a masterpiece.

Yanagihara works some amazing alchemy here in the voice of her protagonist, which seduces you into forgetting that he is narrating the story from prison and lures you into taking his side, not unlike Nabokov’s trick in Lolita. The book is mostly set on a fictional Micronesian island, where scientists discover an uncontacted tribe whose members never die—but at a price. There are countless perfect parallels among the exploitative power dynamics between anthropologist and subject, expedition leader and assistant, mainland and island, corporations and academia, and adults and children, and the whole story flows so smoothly that you only occasionally realize how seduced you are by the profoundly evil narrator. I wish I could recommend it to everyone. But people take books so literally, and then they direct their ire at you. So I don’t recommend this book—unless you believe me when I tell you that no, I’m not a child molester, and yes, this book is magnificent. (For the record, I’m not immortal either, though I’m working on it.)

In books not related to living forever…. I absolutely loved Naomi Alderman’s The Power, a book about an alternative reality where women’s bodies acquire the ability to give off painful or deadly electric shocks, and how that changes civilization. It’s a magnificent book, and I have been an admirer of Alderman’s for years (we both wrote books set in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, for starters). But The Power is revelatory, and astonishingly timely. Now that every day yields another revelation about some powerful man’s downfall due to his history of sexual harassment or assault, I feel like I am watching The Power take hold in real life. Brilliant and exhilarating!
Visit Dara Horn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: The World to Come.

The Page 99 Test: All Other Nights.

The Page 69 Test: A Guide for the Perplexed.

The Page 69 Test: Eternal Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 21, 2018

James Anderson

James Anderson was born in Seattle and raised in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. He is a graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and received his Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Boston. For many years he worked in book publishing. Other jobs have included logging, commercial fishing and, briefly, truck driver. He currently divides his time between Ashland, Oregon, and the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. The Never-Open Desert Diner is his first novel.

Anderson's new novel is Lullaby Road.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Anderson's reply:
My taste in reading is extremely varied, everything from biographies, philosophy, neuroscience, physics, history, as well as fiction, nonfiction and a fair amount of poetry. Right now I am reading the newest from someone I feel is one of our most gifted novelists—Steve Yarbrough—The Unmade World. Yarbrough’s stories are complex, as are his characters, and his ability to elevate a seemingly conversational style into a quite extraordinary intricate use of language. Every page of a Yarbrough novel is exquisite in some way. He is not a carpenter but a diamond cutter.

Rounding out that list is the new collection of stories by Steven Huff—Blissful & Other Stories; Human Ink, The First Five Books, poetry by Michael Poage; Star Journal, Selected Poems by Christopher Buckley, who has long been a favorite poet. And Sherman Alexie’s memoir, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me—which is absolutely extraordinary in every way.
Visit James Anderson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lullaby Road.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Brian Freeman

Brian Freeman is the author of more than a dozen bestselling psychological thrillers, including the Jonathan Stride and Frost Easton series. His novel Spilled Blood won the award for Best Hardcover Novel in the International Thriller Writers Awards, and his thriller The Night Bird was one of the top 20 Kindle bestsellers of 2017. His new novel is The Voice Inside.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Freeman's reply:
Because I write thrillers for a living, most people assume that’s what I read, too.

In fact, I realized early on that I had to make the tough decision to give up reading my own genre. When you write suspense all day long, the idea of curling up with someone else’s suspense novel at the end of the day feels a lot like work! It becomes “market research” rather than “entertainment.”

Plus, there’s a level of intimacy in writing a novel that isn’t the same when you start reading a novel. We have some great writers in the thriller genre, but I’m so accustomed to a three-dimensional connection to my own stories and characters that reading other thrillers feels rather two-dimensional now.

So, I had to go another way. These days, I mostly read nonfiction, particularly history, biographies, and memoirs – books that are nothing like my own work. But that’s what makes it fun for me. In fact, I’m launching a regular podcast on the Authors on the Air network called True Story, in which I interview nonfiction writers who tell real stories with all the drama, emotion, and suspense you’d find in a thriller.

What have I been reading in the nonfiction world recently? It’s a mix, from the upcoming book Bringing Columbia Home about the 2003 space shuttle disaster to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci and Doris Goodwin’s biography of Lyndon Johnson. I’m a big fan of historians like Candice Millard, David McCullough, and Nathaniel Philbrick, too. Next up: The Girl on the Velvet Swing by Simon Baatz. It’s a story I know (oddly enough) from the musical version of E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, which included a song about the “crime of the century” (long before OJ) that is profiled in Baatz’s book.
Visit Brian Freeman's official website, and follow the author's new radio show.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jody Gehrman

Jody Gehrman is a native of Northern California, where she can be found writing, teaching, reading, or obsessing over her three cats most days. She is also the author of eleven novels and numerous award-winning plays.

Her Young Adult novel Babe in Boyland was optioned by the Disney Channel and won the International Reading Association's Teen Choice Award.

Gehrman's plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I.

She is a professor of English and Communications at Mendocino College.

Gehrman's new novel is Watch Me.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Early this morning I finished A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis. When I say “early this morning” I mean 3 a.m. This was one of those books I devoured in one sitting, something I don’t get to do very often these days. I’ve been plagued by a cold and indulged myself with a lazy day of reading.

As it turns out, this is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold, wintry day. It won an Edgar Award for Best YA Mystery, and with good reason. It takes place in the 1800s in a couple of different insane asylums, one in Boston and another in rural Ohio. Madness, incest, rape—it’s full of dark subjects—but somehow it’s not the slightest bit depressing and it’s compulsively readable. The characters are vivid, the setting richly detailed, and the plot had me totally hooked.

Side note: The reason I finished it at 3 a.m. is because earlier in the evening, at a much more respectable hour, just as I reached the exciting final chapters, my husband got all chatty. There are few things I like better than a late night talk with my man, so I knew I was fully immersed in McGinnis’s world when I finally threw the book across the room with a growl of frustration. I decided to grow up and put the book away, but snuck off in the wee hours to finish it by the fire with a cup of tea. I won’t say more about the plot for fear of spoilers; suffice it to say, McGinnis can spin a yarn with the best of them.

I’m a total audiophile, so I’m always listening to at least one audio book, often more. Right now my husband and I are listening to Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water, which is complex and challenging, but coalescing nicely. We took it with us on a road trip and had to quiz each other frequently about the dizzying number of characters, but as we cruise toward the last couple of hours the many plotlines and POVs are starting to braid together into a satisfying whole.

I’m also listening to Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, narrated by the inimitable Imogen Church (love her husky British voice. If you can’t tell, I’m not only an audiophile, but also a hopeless anglophile). I’m only about halfway through, but so far it delivers a winning combination. Ware is so great at blending atmospheric suspense with rich, in-depth explorations of women’s friendships; that was the recipe that got me hooked on her debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood. I’m thrilled to see her revisiting those elements but in a totally fresh way.
Visit Jody Gehrman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Melanie Benjamin

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator's Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age.

Benjamin's new novel is The Girls in the Picture.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm currently finishing up season 2 of The Crown on Netflix, indulging my passion for all things British. So I'm also reading some biographies of the royal family: Princess Margaret, a Biography, by Theo Aronson, and The Queen Mother by William Shawcross, which is quite extensive! If you want to know every detail of every meal she ate, this is the biography for you. There is some excellent info in the book but it is rather a slog. And keeping with this theme, I also, every year come Christmas, find myself turning to cozy British novels, usually set between the wars or immediately after WWII. And these year, I discovered a new author, Elizabeth Fair. Her books are reminiscent of Angela Thirkell, although sweeter - set in small English towns, immediately after the war. I very much enjoyed reading her books The Mingham Air, A Winter Away, and Bramtom Wick over the holidays.
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice I Have Been.

The Page 69 Test: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

My Book, The Movie: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviator's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

The Page 69 Test: The Girls in the Picture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hermione Hoby

Hermione Hoby grew up in south London and graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2007 with a double first in English Literature. After working on the Observer’s New Review section for a few years she moved to New York and has lived in Brooklyn since 2010. She writes about culture, especially books, film, music and gender, for the Guardian, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the TLS and others. She has interviewed hundreds of actors, writers, pop stars and other cultural figures including Toni Morrison, Meryl Streep, Naomi Campbell, Laurie Anderson, Debbie Harry and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.

Hoby's debut novel is Neon in Daylight.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I've been reading Marilynne Robinson's forthcoming book of essays, which goes by the appropriately plain and colossal question of: What Are We Doing Here? In this moment of extreme absurdity - tragic absurdity! - by which I mean, an America run by a terrible and unstable infant, I'm craving steady, grown-up voices. We're so lucky to have a mind like hers. She is truly a grown-up. She writes about politics, history, faith and goodness with awe-inducing intelligence. Not just intelligence - wisdom.
Visit Hermione Hoby's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mark Pryor

Mark Pryor grew up in Hertfordshire, England, and now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three young children.

Over the years, he has been many things: ski instructor, journalist, personal trainer, and bra folder (he lasted one day: fired for giggling at the ridiculousness of the job. If it's any excuse, he was just nineteen years old.)

His first real career was as a newspaper reporter in Colchester, Essex. There, he covered the police and crime beat for almost two years. He also wrote stories on foreign assignments, including accounts from Northern Ireland while with the British Army, and from Romania where he covered the first-anniversary celebrations of that country's revolution.

Pryor moved to America in 1994, mostly for the weather. He attended journalism school at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, and then law school at Duke University, graduating with honors and a lot of debt.

He is currently an Assistant District Attorney with the Travis County DA's office.

Pryor's latest book is Dominic: A Hollow Man Novel.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
The Christmas period is one of the few times I can really spend time with a book or two, and I've just started one I can't wait to get home to. It was given to me by a friend who enjoys my Paris-based novels, and it's called The Paris Enigma, by Pablo De Santis. The premise is delightful: in the City of Light, just as it is about to be illuminated by the 1889 World’s Fair, a series of murders baffles an international band of detectives. I'm not very far in, but the voice (the protagonist is an assistant to one of the detectives) is so original and appealing that I'm hooked, and can't wait for the bodies to start popping up.

Prior to that I read a thriller, Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner. It's the second novel featuring her heroin Caitlin Hendrix and, in my humble opinion, even better than the first (UNSUB). Meg handles the revelation of the killer and the subsequent chase with eloquence and excitement, I'm guessing this book is headed for big things, I've been recommending it left and right!
Visit Mark Pryor's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dominic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Martha Freeman

After graduating from Stanford University, Martha Freeman worked as a newspaper reporter, copy editor, substitute teacher, college lecturer, advertising copywriter and magazine writer before finding her true calling as a writer of children's books. She has since written more than 20 books for children.

Her new novel is Zap.

Recently I asked Freeman about what she was reading. Her reply:
I belong to what I call a badass book group. If we’re not reading The Magic Mountain or Rachel Cusk, we’re reading high-brow essays on botany (The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey), or a history of paleoanthropology (The Case of the Rickety Cossack by Ian Tattersall).

I once heard the novelist and essayist Cynthia Ozick say she was not entertained by entertainment. Most of the time, that’s my badass book group.

Mere mortals, though, need a break now and then, which is why I’ve generally got more than one book on my nightstand. I just finished Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (beautiful writing and fun facts about 18th century New York, maybe a bit too clever). In the fall I read Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny (engaging, well-observed and well-written; can’t figure out how the editor let her get away without an ending) and listened to A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (so charming I forgave it everything).

As for what this writer is reading now, two things:

Grant by Ron Chernow. I was gratified to see this on Barack Obama’s reading list for 2017, too. Did you know Ulysses S. Grant was a saint? He was, at least as depicted by Chernow, and in these troubled times, let me tell you it is a pleasure to read about a public servant who was a saint. Also, you talk about your fun facts: Three of Grant’s groomsmen eventually surrendered to him at Appomattox.

Aimless Love, New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins. I have a bad habit of writing a poem most mornings while I drink my coffee. So (New Year’s resolution alert) I should read more poetry, right? Billy writes about lawn chairs overlooking lakes and cobblestones and love and wine and trout. The man eats a lot of trout. Many of his poems are funny, many are ironic, and almost all depict a seriously enviable life, which may be one secret to his success. Move over, Billy. I’ll share that lawn chair, thank you very much. And I’ll have a bite of trout, while you’re about it.

In fact, it’s my badass book group that assigned Billy Collins. We decided to lighten up for a month over the holidays. I’m not sure what Cynthia Ozick would say. I fear she might not approve.
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Kylie Brant

Kylie Brant is a native Midwesterner and resides in Iowa. She has the distinction of selling the first book she ever wrote. That began a career that has spanned forty novels. She’s garnered numerous nominations and awards, including twice winning the overall Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in mystery and suspense, and a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times. Brant is a three-time RITA nominee and has been nominated for five RT awards. Her recent novel, Pretty Girls Dancing, was a #1 Amazon bestseller.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Brant's reply:
There's nothing I love talking about more than books! And I've been reading some stellar ones recently.

Right now I'm in the middle of Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher novel, The Midnight Line. For those unfamiliar with Child, all his books feature the same character, an ex-military cop who is best described as a nomad. Putting down roots is not in his DNA, so he travels about the country, invariably getting caught up in dangerous situations encountered while he attempts to help someone. The Midnight Line is not Child's most action-packed novel, but it's vintage Reacher. The man sees a woman's West Point ring in a pawn shop and is immediately intrigued. As a former West Point graduate himself, he knows that the woman wouldn't have parted with the ring voluntarily. So he buys it to set about finding its owner, and lands himself in the middle of a drug operation in the Midwest. Characterization is the foundation of all good books, and this novel is filled with quirky story people. Most intriguing is always Jack Reacher himself. A character has to be bigger than life to carry multiple books, and Reacher is well-drawn: physically imposing with a unique skill set that gets him out of the trouble he always walks into.

I just finished Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben. While not my favorite Coben book, it's still a very good mystery about police investigator Napoleon "Nap" Dumas. One night when he was eighteen, Nap's twin brother and his girlfriend were found dead on railroad tracks and Nap's girlfriend Maura disappeared. Nap has been searching for Maura and the real details of his brother's death ever since. When Maura's fingerprints show up in the vehicle used by a cop-killer, Nap comes face-to-face with his past, and discovers the answers he's been seeking far more disturbing than he'd expected.

What I liked best about this book was the style of writing. Told in first person point of view, the reader is in Nap's head throughout, and in his internal monologues he's often talking to his dead twin brother, Leo. It works, charmingly so, lending rare insight into Nap's character and revealing the heartache of a man still emotionally reeling from the loss of his best friend.

One of my favorite discoveries of 2017 was Randall Silvis, a superb writer of literary mysteries. His book, Two Days Gone will stay with me for a long time. It begins with a horrific crime--the quadruple murder of a college professor's wife and children. The professor has disappeared and he's the main suspect in the murders. Detective Ryan DeMarco was friends with the professor, and has a difficult time reconciling the gruesome crimes with the man he admired.

What lifts this story well above an ordinary mystery is Silvis's voice. His lyrical prose serves as stark contrast to the thread of despair that runs throughout the story, and provides an unexpected depth to the plot. This book cemented Silvis's future works as must-reads for me.
Read more about Kylie Brant's work at her website.

--Marshal Zeringue